Southland misses the boat, again

Story by Jim Gazzolo

By Jim Gazzolo

The Southland Conference just can’t get out of its own way.

With a chance to do the right thing, the league once again got it wrong. And this one seemed like such a no brainer.

It has been a rough year for the Southland, granted. Five schools hit the eject button and bolted to what they believe are greener pastures.

It has also been a rough year for the City of Lake Charles and McNeese State, which calls the town home. A pair of hurricanes and historic flooding have ripped apart the City and left it starting all over again.

Two things in desperate need of some good press. The Southland and Lake Charles were both in the same boat, one which was taking on water.

So it would seem to make perfect sense that the two sides would come together and start rebuilding their brands on common ground. Both Lake Charles and the Southland really could use some good public relations right about now.

Thus, when rumors swirled that the league was looking to bring its football media day back to Lake Charles this summer it made a lot of sense in the world. It was a story perfect for the telling.

The league would help get the word out about the rebuilding going on here. It was a national story still waiting to be told.

It was the perfect gesture by the league. Help a community in need of recovery, bring the national spotlight back on what took place in Southwest Louisiana and get some good press for the conference itself.

Along the way, the Southland would be rewarding McNeese, a school that has long stood by the league when others turned their backs and ran for cover, for its loyalty.

Two rebuilding programs under the same roof. Perfect match.

Not so fast. Once again the league dropped the ball. Instead of hosting the event in Lake Charles, which is just about the geographic middle of what’s left with the conference, the Southland pulled out its old Texas hold’em card. The day will instead be spent back in Houston.

The league originally moved their media fun day to Houston in order to make a Texas-size splash with major media. It didn’t work out.

It seems Houston folks care more about the Big 12, SEC, and even the American Athletic Conference than the Southland. Why not, those three leagues host the biggest football names in the state.

Now the Southland doesn’t even have Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, or even Lamar to pump up. Four of the six football-playing schools in the SLC are in Louisiana.

But the Southland proved it can shoot itself in the foot over and over again when it comes to how it treats its Louisiana partners. So it stays with Texas, rewarding the state that saw four of its schools leave the conference.

That’s like giving your ex-wife the keys to your good car as she waves goodbye to you and leaves town with the pool boy.

This is a slap in the face to the Louisiana schools that are standing by the struggling league. More importantly, it is a sign that the league’s brass still doesn’t really get it when it comes to making good news.

I do commend any effort Southland officials made trying to come here, but it seems like this should have been an easy deal to make. And sometimes more effort is needed than just talk.

The only way the Southland gets national attention is by doing what is hard but what is right. A good show with talk of helping a community in need gives the league a boost it really could use about now. Instead, it will get lost in the shuffle of all other league media days, put in the back of the pecking order.

It’s just another case of the league missing the boat.

And that boat is sinking fast.

*Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics and is the host of Poke Nation on CBS-Lake Charles.

Categories: McNeese State Sports, Sports